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Volunteering at Races: How to Get Involved and Support Runners

Medals at Women Rock 10K. Saint Paul, 2015.

Women Rock 10K Medals. Saint Paul, MN. 2015. Photo Credit: Tali Levin

Volunteers are awesome!

I had competed in half-marathons in years past, but it wasn’t until my first marathon last year that I became truly aware and thankful of everyone who helped me reach the finish line successfully. Since then, I’ve volunteered at five race events in the Twin Cities with three different organizations, and it’s been an absolutely amazing way to grow!

Why Volunteer for Races?

Every runner has a reason for participating in a race. For some, this is their first race, others compete for a personal record time, some do it just for fun, or they may run with a special someone in their thoughts. Of course, there is an endless number of other reasons!

Runners’ goals and aspirations depend on the organization’s staff and volunteers to make race day happen. Without volunteers, there is no race.

With Whom Can I Volunteer?

The Twin Cities hosts three main organizations that orchestrate year-round race series:

  • Twin Cities in Motion
    • Organizes Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon and the Red, White & Boom! Half Marathon, among others.
  • Minnesota Running Series
    • Plans Goldy’s Run, Lake Minnetonka Half Marathon and Turkey Trot, among others.
  • Team Ortho
    • Known for the Get Lucky Half Marathon, Minneapolis Marathon and Monster Dash, among others.

There are many other running race organizations all over the country.

Who Volunteers?

People of all ages and backgrounds, runners and non-runners, groups and individuals.

What Are the Perks of Volunteering?

As a volunteer, you can expect to receive:

  • A volunteer shirt or apparel from the organization.
  • Snacks or refreshments (depending on organization and weather).
  • “Bones” per hour of service (Team Ortho Only): Bones act as points that may be redeemed for race entries or apparel.
  • Some leftover food at the end of the race.
  • Plenty of smiles and “Thank You”s from grateful runners and staff!

What Are Typical Volunteer Tasks?

When signing up online, you choose where you want to help and the type of responsibilities you may have:

  • Before Race Day – Prepare race packets; set-up, facilitate and take-down Expo and/or packet pick-up
  • Start Line – Set-up, bag drop, direct runners, take-down.
  • Out on the Course – Be a course marshall (enforce course and direct runners), prepare and hand out water/sports drinks at fluid stops, pass out gels (marathons only).
  • Finish Line – Set-up, prepare and pass out medals, direct runners, hand out food and drinks, give wet towels or Mylar blankets (marathons only), bag pick-up, take-down.
  • Post-Race Party – Set-up, assist in tents and activities, take-down.

How Do I Get Started?

  1. Find a race or organization.
    • Volunteering in the Twin Cities or Minnesota:
      • Follow the links for the organizations listed above and find the Volunteering tabs.
    • Volunteering in other cities:
      • Find the websites to local races you know in your area, or search in Google “(Your State) Marathon” or “(Your City) Running Races”.
    •  Use the Runner’s World Race Finder tool.
  2. Check out the volunteering opportunities for the event.
  3. Sign up and attend individually, with a friend or group!
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